Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Thistle's Beginning

This is the first part of a work of fiction I started about 20 years ago that features a main character by the name of Thistle Penn.  I have a huge file of gobbledygook and nuggets to be mined in the next phase of editing, but this open is pretty good.  Well, at least, I think it is.  You tell me what you think.


It was all episodic; all coincidental.  It didn't matter what choices were made; all actions were in the flow, and you did them and just forgot them because you couldn't change them, you couldn't do it differently. The moment had past.


Begin at the beginning.  That's what logic says.  Commence.  Embark.  Meaning begins with a single thought.  The Big Bang.  Pow.  The cogito: I think therefore I am.  Voila.

But one finds that with anything one begins, there is an inevitable turn back to view what you have accomplished.  Along with this craning of the neck and refocusing on recollection come hopes of acquiring more inspiration to continue and foreclose the ideal.  Bang!  You're here, and you're doing, shaping, thinking.  You formulate goals and ideals towards which you strive.  Then those are measured, noted, and thrown back into the grinder to be broken down further into even finer bits.  One inevitably begins again and again, each time at a different ground zero, refining the original vision into another.  The ultimate is re-evaluated, the infinite redefined.  In turn, a dream is resuscitated, reborn; it steers clear of the stale, static square box and blooms into yet another circle. The whole experience of "reaching for the stars" (as Kasey Kasem would have put it) can be likened to dropping a pebble in a puddle.  The waves reach out in all directions, ripple upon ripple, circle upon circle, expanding the sphere of existence to encompass more of the imagined.  One circle is created, and another pops up right behind it, from the same point of origin, moving the same speed as the bigger circle in front of it, and the smaller one that jumps up behind it. Eventually, the ripple spreads the length of the water's surface to encompass the experience, bank to bank.  Or the ripple reaches a point where it starts to wonder if there are any limits that it can reach...

"What?" said the man, folding his newspaper down to reveal a frown of disbelief.

Thistle inventoried his recollection.  He wasn't sure what he had been saying, exactly.  He was just trying to make conversation, make the task of sharing a table with a stranger a little less cumbersome.  He often had experienced an uncomfortable reception that he likened to his slovenly appearance.  But this was usually dismantled with a little practice of social skills.  "Well, I was just asking if you were done with the sports section," he said, guessing.

The newspaper was folded and set down, no longer the first priority of attention.  "You say that you can see into the future?"  The man who asked the question seemed to have, deep below his rough, razor-burned and pocked complexion, a desire to believe Thistle.

"I don't want to frighten you," said Thistle, recovering his thoughts.  "I just kinda talk.  Like to.  Don't do too much.  But talk."

"That's mm-nice," said the restaurant patron.  There was a sense of discomfort in his expression. Thistle empathized with him, not only because of the known discomfort of the average restaurant nook, but because of the hints being forecast in his own mind that his vertical hold on the reality channel was slipping.  He could barely grasp the remote with the feeble fingers in his mind.  Yet he summoned the strength to point his sights directly at his subject and continued searching for the button that would enable a connection between the minds involved in this conversation.

Thistle’s mind crackled with potential.  He sensed that a well told story could be of great worth at this exact point in time, if only he could find the right hook that would enable his audience to suspend their disbelief beyond the greatest unknowns that the collective imaginative universe withholds.

“You see," Thistle said, "I've had a lot of pain. Rejection.  Ridicule. I've lived through much persecution to continue talking.  And so I should, in accordance with all national and state regulatory policies, exclaim all appropriate disclaimers and require my listener's consent. It's against my nature, but it seems to save a lot of trouble."

"I'm listening," said the restaurant patron, settling into the orange vinyl nook with sounds of amplified flatulence.

"First," said Thistle, "I need a glass of water."


Gerri said...

You are off to a good start...I'm hooked! I like the way you described the guy sitting down in the orange booth (thought I could actually hear it).

Deb said...

Have I read this before? It seems vaguely familiar. I hope to see more of Thistle. :)